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Archive for April, 1993

Silent Rage

The government of Nawaz Sharif was sacked on the evening of Sunday April 18, 1993. On the following day, as a reaction to the controversial Presidential action, the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) witnessed the largest fall in its share index in one day. Though it did not equal the October 1929 Black Tuesday crash on Wall Street, the fact of the precipitous “Black Monday” dive shook domestic and foreign investor confidence in the state of the economy.

The policies of the previous government were seen to be liberal and supportive of a conducive economic environment. By enacting far-reaching reforms to unshackle the economy from bureaucratic embrace, Nawaz Sharif had inspired sustained economic investment, particularly at the lower end of the economic spectrum. Indeed, this had blown the share market much out of proportion to its real value, corrections in a free market atmosphere had brought share prices to much more realistic levels before Monday’s headlong fall. The fall in share prices may be a reflection of investor confidence being shaken but given a GNP of US $ 50 billion approximately, a capitalisation of US $ 7 billion is relatively small. The unreal high point of 1700 points plus being reached in January 1992, the market index had come down to the 1200 threshold, a psychological benchmark that the former Finance Minister had set as an indicator of impending trouble. If the crisis continues share index may still fall through the 1000 point floor and as such while the Caretaker Government may be determined to change the form of the liberalising reforms enacted by the previous Regime, it has no elbowroom to change the substance as that would reflect adversely on the consistency of our own policies. As it is about Rs 7 billion in share prices has been wiped out and such a financial catastrophe may be difficult for generally new market players to absorb.

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The Empire Strikes Back

The political struggle between the President and the PM that initially commenced with having more to do with egos has subsequently developed into a vested interest in retaining power rather than the upholding of any deep-rooted principles. A mass of disinformation has been let loose by both the sides that has kept the masses agog and the intelligentsia on tenterhooks, the business community registering its nervousness at the prevailing uncertainty through a steep decline of the stock market. In a perverse sense the internecine conflict has been a net gain for Pakistan for it has exposed our Parliamentary system for the farce that it actually is, a weak and spineless mechanism prone to Presidential remote control. In the past five years two elected Prime Ministers had become victims of Presidential angst, a third PM has now bitten the dust. We might as well declare the Presidency as a monarchy and be done with such a sham for a democracy.

Despite their own reservations about both the primary personalities involved, sane elements (including this scribe) had been counselling rapprochement between the President and the former PM in the greater national interest till they were blue in the face but to no avail, egos having enlarged to the extent of taking preponderance over anything else. Given the fact that the world political situation has undergone major surgery and we are in the midst of a sustained economic transition, the present political tussle has added to the country’s roller-coaster existence. Despite attempts at appeasement by the PM and his colleagues, the President has been as unforgiving as ever, driving Nawaz Sharif into such a corner that in a most uncharacteristic and surprising move he declared independence of the Head of Government from the Head of State, not a bad thing in itself in a Parliamentary system. The President’s mood had blackened over the PM’s alleged “indiscretions” in deliberately delaying to nominate him immediately as the PML candidate for the next Presidential election as soon as he had the mandate from the PML and for suggesting a repeal and/or amendment of the 8th Amendment. Having learnt nothing from Munich and appeasement thereof, the former PM had backtracked smartly on both the issues but the trust factor had already evaporated and did not satisfy those around Ghulam Ishaq Khan baying for Nawaz Sharif’s blood, particularly those who felt left out of the political and administrative mainstream, a habit that fails to die among old bureaucrats. Attempting to hound the PM out of office by a combination of bluff and bluster, the President’s men made the cardinal mistake of crossing a fail-safe line of courage and self-respect that is an in-built quality in all human beings, the potential to fight back in extreme adversity. The President may now have the PM’s head on a platter by sacking him and dissolving the National Assembly but he should re-read Homer’s Iliad, the admonition of the mother of Achilles to Achilles was not to kill Hector as he would not survive Hector’s death by long. It is common knowledge that the President has an extremely pronounced Achilles Heel in the form of the Presidential sons-in-laws. The citizens of this country may be forgiven for feeling that the country is being held hostage on their behalf.

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Strangers once we part

Blessed by mother nature with one of the most fertile, arable lands in the world, nature’s fickle nature is never so obvious as when its vagaries cause Bangladesh misfortune on almost a regular basis year after year. A large delta region washed regularly by the water (and soil) of the Himalayas, its biggest handicap is the ever-increasing mass of population that crowds into its sparse acreage. As if the natural vise was not enough, Bangladesh is hemmed in by the animosity of an hegemonistic and unforgiving neighbour. Once described as an “international basket case” by Henry Kissinger and called “Sonar (Golden) Bangla” by its population, the nation has been doing well enough by just keeping afloat in the rising red ink of indebtedness. From 1975 onwards, Bangladesh has made good progress but because of the rapid increase of its population, the overall impression has been of standing still, given Bangladesh’s continuing capacity of being prone to disasters, it has been a tremendous achievement.

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Murder or character assassination

In a startling development that will have far reaching consequences, the widow of late COAS Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua has alleged that her husband was murdered for political purposes. Other than the pure criminality of the act of killing an individual, the implications are that a political conspiracy successfully penetrated the security cordon around the late COAS and that it was made possible with the active connivance of official agencies at the behest of responsible officials of the Federal Government. Mrs Nuzhat Nawaz has named two of the PM’s closest aides, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Minister for Petroleum Affairs and Special Assistant to the PM, and Brig (Retd) Imtiaz, Head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), as the main perpetrators of the alleged crime.

The allegation has extremely grave security implications that go beyond the actual demise of the late COAS. It opens a Pandora’s Box that will be difficult to close. It first assumes a sinister motive, the present Federal Government was so threatened by the existence of the late COAS, that it had been more than happy to appoint with great fanfare barely a year or so earlier, that his aides went to the extent of ordering his physical removal from this world. Next it assumes that the loyalty/loyalties of individual/s in the close security circle around the late COAS had been subverted. Lastly, given the number of intelligence units and sub-units involved in the maintenance of internal security, it assumes a grave failure on their part ipso facto and de facto, that the dastardly deed was not prevented before it could have been carried out, that no evidence could have emerged till date and if tangible evidence was available then it throws up the additional possibility of the gravest assumption of all, that there was a conspiracy to cover-up the alleged assassination in which the Federal Government and the present military hierarchy was directly and/or indirectly involved.

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The Price of Conscience

No amount of praise can really describe the courageous, untiring and dedicated efforts of the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) in their crusade to restore law and order in the city of Karachi. Recognition was overdue for the two CPLC stalwarts (and guiding force) Nazim Haji and Jameel Yousuf, it was duly given in the Presidential Investiture Ceremony at Islamabad on Republic Day this year. Risking life and limb on a purely voluntary basis, bearding bureaucracy in its den while braving the wrath of the corrupt among the law enforcement agencies on the one hand and the lawless on the other, the CPLC has restored the confidence of society in the fast disappearing human qualities of selflessness, sacrifice and community service. For the CPLC’s two leading persons and their families, an unlimited threat perception around the clock is a constant reminder that conscience has a price, the unending risk is a heavy cross they have to bear for the purposes of ridding those from society who had become its scourge. One of the finest experiments attempted in the realm of sustenance of moral values, that the CPLC has succeeded beyond the imagination of its pioneering founders gives hope to our endangered society. We may be at the edge of the Rubicon, the will of the people will always be stronger than the machinations of evil.

One incident graphically illustrates the present stress and strain on society, it reveals the centrifugal forces acting to dismember the mores of civilization as we know it and condemn it to the dust heap. Evidencing from the confessions of a major criminal involved in the organised lifting of cars in Karachi and their disposal thereof in other provinces, some leading politicians and high ranking officials stood implicated. The news item was staggering in content, if untrue it could not be more libellous or defamatory. If it was concocted it was incumbent upon the Government to nail down the source and subject those responsible for its initiation to severe punishment pro-rata to the very crimes they had accused the various personages of. After all it cast aspersion on the character and integrity on the supposed guardians of the law, smearing the pillars of our society who are primarily responsible to uphold and maintain sanctity thereof. It chronicled an evil that should be the domain of hardened criminals, how could it ever be a factual account of these privileged to function in the name of justice? In the hands of criminals, the rendering of justice becomes a crime. The reaction of the Federal Government was surprising, it preferred to shroud the issue in a veiled cloak.

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